Dublin: Justice Minister Faces Questions Over British Police Spy & Agent Provocateur’s Undercover Activities In Ireland: UPDATED

22 Jan

WHEN Brendan Smith takes up his new role as part-time justice minister next week one of the first letters he will receive will be from Labour TD Michel D Higgins demanding a statement on the government’s level of knowledge of rogue British undercover policeman Mark Kennedy’s activities in Ireland.

The Kennedy case has convulsed the British media and police since he was publicly uncovered earlier this month as a deep-cover agent who had operated within the environmental movement for seven years. However despite numerous accounts of his participation, and allegations of him taking a leading “agent provocateur” role in Irish protests, the Government has refused to comment or even acknowledge the issue, of what British police Minister Nick Herbert has described as a covert operation which went “very wrong”.

The Government’s claims of “no knowledge” are even more unusual due to the fact that for the seven years from 2003 that PC Mark Kennedy lived his double life as a long haired environmental radical, his two children and his now estranged wife lived in her home village near Kanturk and were frequently visited by the off-duty Metropolitan police officer.

It is reported that in the local pub Mr Kennedy was well known as the “uncover policeman”.

Using a fake identity as a rock-climbing enthusiast Mark Stone, the undercover officer took part in protests in Dublin, Shannon airport and at the site of the controversial Shell Corrib pipeline.

Since the Irish Examiner first contacted the Department of Justice about PC Kennedy’s activities last October — when his true identity was uncovered by English environmental activists — officials have maintained that they “have no information on the allegations”. However, last week, Mr Kennedy, who is believed to be hiding in the US, gave an interview to a British paper in which he stated that he would travel abroad with fellow activists and feed information back to his superiors to share with other nations.

“Activism has no borders,” he said.

“I would never go abroad without authority from my superiors and the local police.”

He added: “My superiors knew where I was at all times — my BlackBerry was fitted with a tracking device — and they sanctioned every move I made. I didn’t sneeze without them knowing about it.”

He said he was informed that some of the information he handed on in his daily communications with his handlers was directly relayed to then Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Several activists have attested to Mr Kennedy encouraging and taking part in illegal activity during Irish protests.

Activists have confirmed that at the May 2004 EU summit protests then PC Kennedy took a lead role breaking into a building on Dublin’s north side to be used as a base for visiting British anarchists.

He also brought a van from Britain containing crash helmets and offered to purchase broom handles to be used in combating gardaí.

“At the protest he was to the fore wearing a balaclava and violently attacking gardaí,” said one activist.

During a March 2006 visit to Corrib he met leading anti-shell campaigners and encouraged them to be “more direct” in their protests.

An activist who housed PC Kennedy during one of his visits to Ireland said: “He was always very supportive of ‘direct action’ protest. It’s disturbing that he would seem to have been acting as an ‘agent provocateur’ attempting to get people into trouble, the key question is who was he working for while in Ireland?”

Mr Kennedy who, was know as “flash” for his access to cash, was so trusted by Irish activists that his portable internet connection in his van was used by campaigners to upload photographs to the indymedia activist news site during anti-George Bush protests at Shannon in June 2004.

In Britain, investigations into the officer — whose operation cost more than €350,000 per year — are now being carried out by the Independent Police Complaints Commission with Nottinghamshire Police conducting an internal review.

In Germany there have been calls for a state inquiry into PC Kennedy’s activities there. Inquires are also being made whether the police officer broke the law by initiating sexual relationships with activists.

While his activities have led to the unmasking of two more British undercover officers inside the largely peaceful environmental movement and resulted in serious questions over the future of the covert National Public Order Intelligence Unit. Mr Kennedy is looking to turn the tale to his benefit having reportedly called on the services of PR guru Max Clifford as he prepares to sell the rights to his story.

Mr Higgins, the Labour foreign affairs spokesman believes the Kennedy case raises major issues for the Irish government.

“Kennedy’s activities are of grave concern and a reminisce of allegations of similar operations in the 1970s and 1980s,” Mr Higgins said.

However Historian Brian Hanley, who has written on the subversive intelligence world, said: “The Irish State has a very poor record in dealing with British subversive activity. In the early 1970s there was the infamous case of the Littlejohn brothers who instated armed robberies and fire bombed garda stations in the republic and later turned out to be working for British intelligence.

In 1972, a senior garda in the forces’s intelligence unit was found to be passing on information to MI6. After three months detention, the officer and an MI6 agent were released and left for Britain.”

Events radical attended here
SOME events attended by Pc Mark Kennedy:

* Grassroots Gathering April 2004 — Dublin.

* Mayday 2004 EU Summit protest — Dublin.

* June 2004 Anti-Bush protest Shannon Airport.

* April 2005 — Clare and Shannon Airport where he addressed activists on how to take “direct action” against US flights landing at Shannon.

* Anarchist Bookfair March 2006 — Dublin.

* Corrib protests March 2006 — Mayo.

NEWS UPDATE:

An undercover police officer has been placed on restricted duties.

Det Con Jim Boyling, who worked in specialist operations at the Metropolitan Police, was investigated by the Met’s Directorate of Professional Standards.

It followed allegations that he married an activist whom he was supposed to be spying on.

A Met spokesman said it would be thoroughly investigated, but the police were not able to comment further.

Scotland Yard said it acted “following allegations reported in a national newspaper on Thursday 20 January”.

On Thursday, the Guardian reported that the undercover officer married an activist he was supposed to be spying on.

His ex-wife told the paper he encouraged her to change her name by deed poll in an unsuccessful attempt to conceal their relationship from senior officers.

She said she met the undercover officer in 1999 when he was working to infiltrate the Reclaim the Streets environmental group under the alias Jim Sutton.

After he completed his undercover work the officer is said to have vanished for a year, before reappearing and admitting his real identity as a police officer.

The couple reportedly had two children before divorcing two years ago.

The Met’s move comes after Policing Minister Nick Herbert told MPs something went “very wrong” in the case of Mark Kennedy, another undercover police officer.

He caused the trial of six men accused of conspiring to shut down Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in Nottinghamshire to collapse after he said he would testify for the defence.

Mr Kennedy spent a reported seven years posing as activist Mark “Flash” Stone.

NEWS UPDATE:

Jo Adetunji

guardian.co.uk, Friday 21 January 2011 21.08 GMT

Jim Boyling Jim Boyling, who worked undercover as Jim Sutton, has been suspended by the Metropolitan police pending an investigation

One of three police officers revealed by the Guardian to have infiltrated the green protest movement has been restricted from duty pending an investigation into his professional conduct.

Jim Boyling, who carried out covert surveillance for five years while undercover as eco-activist Jim Sutton, was accused of engaging in sexual relationships with targets. It emerged this week that Boyling had married an activist and had gone on to have two children with her before divorcing two years ago.

Details emerged of a complicated double life, in which he persuaded his ex-wife to change her name by deed poll so as not to raise the suspicions of senior officers.

Laura (not her real name) told the Guardian she met Boyling, 28, after he infiltrated Reclaim the Streets, an environmental group known for bringing busy streets to a standstill in protests against cars. After embarking on a relationship, which she described as “the deepest love I thought I’d ever known”, Laura said Boyling disappeared for a year before he revealed his true identity after a chance meeting. She described the effect of the surveillance operation as one that “wrecks lives”.

In a statement, the Metropolitan police said: “A serving specialist operations detective constable has been restricted from duty as part of an investigation following allegations reported in a national newspaper.”

Boyling is said to have become a key organiser in Reclaim during an operation that ran from 1995 to 2000. Under the false identity of Sutton, a 34-year-old fitness fanatic, Boyling gained the trust of the group, helping out with a van.

The revelations have sparked a crisis in undercover operations and led to the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), responsible for some sensitive police operations, to be stripped of three teams involved in tackling so-called “domestic extremism”.

Three of the four police officers at the centre of the crisis – all male – are all believed to have conducted sexual relationships while undercover. Mark Kennedy, the first policeman to be revealed as an undercover operative, and who is no longer an officer, had several sexual relationships while posing as an activist. His naming as an undercover officer by eco-activists led to the collapse of the trial of six people accused of planning to break into a power station in Nottinghamshire.

Jon Murphy, chief constable of Merseyside and the senior police officer managing the crisis, said it was “never acceptable” for undercover officers to have sexual relationships with their targets.

“Something has gone badly wrong here. We would not be where we are if it had not,” Murphy said.

Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) is investigating Acpo’s decade-long covert operations into the protest movement.

NEWS UPDATE:

The government said today that a private company run by police chiefs should be stripped of its power to run undercover spies in the wake of a Guardian investigation into the police officer Mark Kennedy, who spent seven years posing as an environmental activist.

The Home Office minister Nick Herbert and senior police officers acknowledged for the first time that “something had gone very wrong” in the Kennedy case, which led to the collapse last week of the trial of six people accused of planning to invade a Nottinghamshire power station.

Herbert said that the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), a limited company with responsibility for some sensitive national operations, is to lose control of three teams involved in tackling so-called “domestic extremism”. Ministers and senior officers hope the decision may defuse the controversy surrounding revelations of long-term undercover surveillance of peaceful protest groups.

Later in the day the national policing watchdog announced the launch of an official inquiry into undercover police work carried out by Acpo. The review by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) will investigate Acpo’s decade-long infiltration of the protest movement, assessing whether operations have been “authorised in accordance with law” and “proportionate”.

The review, which will be conducted by Bernard Hogan-Howe, a former chief constable, is now one of three formal inquiries triggered by the Guardian’s investigation into Mark Kennedy and up to 15 other police spies. The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has already announced an investigation into Nottinghamshire police over allegations it suppressed secret surveillance tapes – recorded by Kennedy – that would have exonerated six activists police tried to prosecute. And today it also emerged that the Serious and Organised Crime Agency, which has responsibility for major cover operations, has begun a simultaneous inquiry into “the conduct of Mark Kennedy”.

It is the Metropolitan police that is now set to take control of the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), the largest of Acpo’s domestic extremism units, and today its acting commissioner, Tim Godwin, said that the force would from now on examine whether operations to infiltrate allegedly dangerous groups are necessary and proportionate, and would ensure that officers like Kennedy were not left undercover too long.

Godwin said that Acpo, which owned the unit, had already identified it as needing better governance, and that negotiations were under way to bring it into the Met “so that it would come within our command and control system, which would ensure a) compliance with law, b) compliance with rules, c) compliance with ethics”.

There would “undoubtedly” be a review of the code of conduct and rules for undercover officers in collaboration with bodies like HMIC. “We need to make sure that the controls are in place, that we look after them properly, that we don’t over-expose them,” he said.

“For that particular unit [the NPOIU] we will be looking at all these issues around necessity, proportionality, about looking after the officers themselves, making sure that we don’t leave them too long if that’s the case.”

Meanwhile Herbert, the minister of state for police and justice, told MPs the Kennedy case demonstrated strongly that Acpo should no longer have the responsibility for national organisations such as the unit that runs covert operations gathering intelligence on protest groups in England and Wales. “The Government is strongly of the view that there needs to be proper accountability for Acpo and its successor body,” he said.

“Units like this should not be operated by Acpo and they should be operated either by a lead police force or in future the National Crime Agency where there is proper governance in place.”

Acpo president, Sir Hugh Orde, said that chief police officers firmly supported the government’s aims. “What is vitally important is that national units have a transparent accountability framework that provides public confidence,” he told the Guardian.

“As president, I have publicly committed to that reform and we hope government will provide the support necessary to secure it.”

The units to be merged into a new domestic extremism command of the Met are: NPOIU, the national domestic extremism team and the national extremism tactical co-ordination unit.

It will leave Acpo with the police national information and co-ordination centre, national community tension team, and the vehicle crime intelligence service known as Truckpol. The move was first floated last November and is expected to be confirmed by the Acpo council meeting of all chief constables later this month.

The police minister told MPs he had no knowledge of the case until the Guardian disclosed that the prosecution of six activists planning to invade Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station collapsed because of Kennedy’s role in it.

He refused to comment on claims by MPs that the names of the business secretary, Vince Cable, and the Green party leader, Caroline Lucas, were listed on the domestic extremism database just because they had been at peaceful protests.

The home affairs committee chairman, Keith Vaz, who said Kennedy was “no James Bond”, also pressed the minister to investigate the alleged £200,000 expenses bill run up by Kennedy.

Herbert said: “In this case it is clear that something operationally has gone very wrong and that is now the subject of an IPCC investigation.”

“I think everybody is concerned by the Kennedy case and we have an IPCC precisely to investigate this kind of thing. It is right that the IPCC should look into it and then we should take note of that.”

Today two protesters involved in the Ratcliffe-on-Soar station case – the last of 20 found guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespasss last month – were given community service orders.

Related stories

Police review undercover tactics 18 JANUARY 2011, UK

IPCC to probe trial collapse 14 JANUARY 2011, UK

Related Internet links

Metropolitan Police Service

Guardian

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